Hebrew Bible

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 9
As is well known the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, except the portions mentioned under ARAMAIC. Until the labors of Kennicott and De’ Rossi it was thought that there were no errors in the Hebrew manuscripts, but many differences were found. The variations however are for the most part trivial mistakes of the copyists, which do not materially affect the text. The examination of MSS goes to prove that the penmen must have exercised great care, some of the Hebrew letters being very similar.
It is now well established that the Hebrew language was originally written without vowel points. It is judged that the translation of the LXX must have been made from MSS without these points, and without any spaces between the words. There were no points to the Hebrew as late as the time of Jerome. Neither were they there when the Talmud was written (see TALMUD). For instance, it is questioned whether in Isaiah 54:1313And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:13) it should be read “thy children” or “thy builders”—a question which the vowel points would have decided.
It is supposed they were introduced about the seventh century, though there may have been a few marks to doubtful words before that date.
While the Hebrew was a living language the vowel points were not needed. It is judged that the purity of its pronunciation began to fail during the Babylonian captivity. In the tenth century the vowel points were well known, and had been apparently in use some time. Comparatively lately some MSS of the Karaite Jews in the East have shown that there was another system of vocalization and accentuation very different from that found in the common Hebrew Bible. The synagogue rolls of the sacred books are still written without vowels and accents. There can be no doubt in studying Hebrew as a dead language the vowel points give great help and precision.
God has watched over His own book, and doubtless He helped the Jewish copyists; to the Jews “were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:22Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:2)). The various Readings in the Old Testament are mostly comprised in the KERI AND CHETHIB. For the order of the books see BIBLE.